Oregon public health employee faked 56 infection case reports: ORI

downloadA former employee in the public health division of the Oregon Health Authority committed misconduct in 56 case reports about Clostridium difficile infections in Klamath County, Oregon, as well as in a manuscript submitted to JAMA Internal Medicine and a published report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in March, 2012.

Ryan Asherin, previously a Surveillance Officer and Principal Investigator at the OHA, was a busy man. According to the details from a report by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, Asherin:

falsified and/or fabricated fifty-six (56) case report forms (CRFs) while acquiring data on the incidence of Clostridium difficile infections in Klamath County, Oregon. Specifically, the Respondent (1) fabricated responses to multiple questions on the CRFs for patient demographic data, patient health information, and Clostridium difficile infection data, including the diagnoses of toxic megacolon and ileus and the performance of a colectomy, with no evidence in patient medical records to support the responses; and (2) falsified the CRFs by omitting data on the CRFs that clearly were included in patient medical records.

In addition, Asherin was found guilty of “falsifying and/or fabricating data” that appeared in the research record of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a manuscript sent to JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2013, and a paper about C. diff that appeared in the CDC’s MMWR journal. The paper — about a potentially deadly infection that’s a common feature of healthcare settings — has been cited 75 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Some of these messy data also made their way into 2012 presentations to the CDC and the 11th Biennial Congress of the Anaerobe Society, according to the ORI report.

The OHA told us Asherin no longer works there:

Ryan Asherin is no longer employed by the Oregon Health Authority as of August 12, 2011.

A spokesperson said the OHA will have a longer statement “shortly,” which we will post as an update.

As part of the settlement agreement, Asherin agreed to have his research supervised, among other stipulations, for two years starting May 12, 2015.

We’ve also reached out the ORI; Rita Redberg, editor of JAMA Internal Medicine; the MMWR; and L. Clifford McDonald, the corresponding contributor on the MMWR paper.

Update 1:15 p.m. eastern 5/29/15: We heard back from Redberg, who offered this statement:

Like most peer reviewed journals, our Instructions to Authors state that submissions to JAMA Internal Medicine are confidential, and we can neither confirm nor deny whether an author has submitted a manuscript for our review.  Since we cannot discuss whether a manuscript was submitted, we certainly cannot discuss why it might have been rejected.  We trust you understand and appreciate the rationale for this editorial policy.

Update 7:29 p.m. eastern 5/29/15: The OHA sent us a more detailed statement about the case:

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is committed to gathering and presenting accurate data to inform public health policy and decisions. Upon auditing the data collected by former employee, Ryan Asherin, OHA staff found errors and subsequently launched a vigorous internal investigation. We then reported those investigation findings to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity. We continue to meticulously monitor our agency’s data collection, analysis, and reporting to ensure the deepest integrity. Ryan Asherin is no longer employed by the Oregon Health Authority as of August 12, 2011.

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4 thoughts on “Oregon public health employee faked 56 infection case reports: ORI”

  1. Was this “employee” a scientist or administrator ?
    The case is not yet listed on the ORI Summary of cases.


  2. The notice appears in Monday’s Federal Register and should be on the ORI page shortly thereafter. Yyou may have noticed the website is hardly ever updated…the last annual report is 2012. The “new” posting of cases studies is more than a year old. Very sad to be so neglected by HHS. And still no director…16 months and counting.

  3. We need to start criminal prosecutions against this type of fraud. It is becoming too commonplace. The corporations who pay for it need to be investigated as well.

  4. Theresa, ORI has been posting its findings regularly this year (2015), and many such ORI findings have appeared since 2012 when you said you last saw “case studies” — see on ORI website’s Misconduct Case Summaries link on home page, to get to:

    2015 to date – SIX case Summaries: Asherin, Ryan; Briones, Teresita L; Fujita, Ryousuke; Kang, Bin; Reddy, Venkata J.; Xiao, Dong

    2014: TWELVE case summaries: Ahvazi, Bijan; Chen, Li; Cokonis, Melanie; Deb, Kaushik; Dzhura, Igor; Freeman, Helen C.; Fu, Jun; Patel, Parag; Suzuki, Makoto; Takahashi, Takao; Warne, James P.; Xing, H. Rosie; Zou, Zhihua

    2013: TEN case summaries: Adibhatla, Rao M.; Aggarwal, Nitin; Doreian, Bryan W.; Han, Dong-Pyou; Karnik, Pratima; Poore, Matthew; Savine, Adam C.; Sheehy, Timothy; Wang, Hao; Xu, Baoyan

    – – – –
    Yes, the second search for a successor to David Wright as the last regular ORI Director is apparently still ongoing.

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